On the Move by Abrahm Lustgarten [9/10]

On the Move: The Overheating Earth and the Uprooting of America, written by an accomplished journalist, is climate migration’s equivalent to that recent masterpiece, Jeff Goodell’s Heat: Life and Death on a Scorched Planet. As the author puts it, “roughly half the population of the United States lives in the regions that are shifting outside of America’s ideal climate niche for human habitability. Just how large, then, will American’s great migration be?” The author travels to the crucible case of Central American countries wracked with drought, streams of refugees heading north. He recounts how even the most liberal Mexicans, committed to absorbing migrants, eventually need to harden their hearts and turn back the hordes or ghetto-ise them. He paints a picture of the same unsupportable waves of climate migrants surging in bubbles of agonized poverty and death toward the Mecca countries of the world, America in particular. He outlines the growing sophistication of science that explores, to increasingly granular levels, those segments of Earth unsustainable as temperatures rise, wildfires proliferate, seas rise, and storms intensify. If today only a sliver of Earth is truly uninhabitable, research indicates that by 2070 twenty percent of the planet will fall into that category. He covers the emerging detailed science of how migration unfolds, both in dire areas and in the United States. And American climate migration is today’s reality, first from utterly burnt out towns and utterly flooded coastal areas, then more slowly from the unsupportable heat in Phoenix and similar places. The author dates our U.S. climate migration, the most significant since the post-Civil-War northward “Great Migration,” to “years ago” before now. Overall, superbly written, brilliantly researched, On the Move is troubling, essential reading.

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